The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Scale-Craft 4-6-4T, outside third rail version

This model is uncommon, the Scale-Craft 4-6-4T (more here), but an additional unique thing about this model is it is set up for outside third rail.

Outside third rail operation was in the earliest years of American OO the norm. Early Nason catalogs, before Scale-Craft shook things up in 1937 with 2-rail DC, assume that all operation will be with outside third rail setup and AC motors.

Probably the last big American OO layout with outside third rail was the Saint Anne of Ed Costello, featured in RMC in 1979 (more here). In the cover photo of the issue the third rail is just barely visible in the lower right corner. As is noted in that article, early insulated wheelsets had a tendency to fall apart (ever see any Famoco trucks?) and three rail eliminated that issue, the wheels were all on solidly.

This S-C 4-6-4T for sure does not run presently. The wires connected to both of the third rail collectors are broken off, everything needs new wiring. The setup though was that the third rail collectors are mounted on insulated pads. The collectors themselves are interesting items too, as they are set up so that the wires are sprung, creating a bit of down force to keep them in contact with the third rail.

I recall maybe ten years ago a collector contacted me, they had a large outside third rail OO layout in storage. Maybe someone will get one set up and running again, but I am feeling pretty doubtful to be honest. Wheels falling apart are not an issue now, and installing a third rail is yet one more complication toward working in an already difficult modeling gauge. Although who knows, if I build another layout I might lay a test track with outside third rail.

But to this engine, it actually could be rebuilt as a 2-rail model. All the wheels are insulated, it is just a matter of wiring. Also, up on top of the tank, you can see it was set up with a manual reverser back in the day. A big project to rebuild, but maybe worth it due to the rarity of the model.

For now though, I will just enjoy looking at it as it is, the only outside 3rd rail model to ever land on my workbench.